Experience

ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS LITIGATION

Los Angeles Dodgers – Mel represented the Los Angeles Dodgers in connection with possible salary arbitrations of their arbitration-eligible players.

James Stewart Entertainment, LLC v. L&M Racing, LLC – Mel represented world motocross champion, James Stewart, Jr., in his federal court lawsuit against his former motocross team for breach of contract for failure to pay him compensation due.

Moakler adv. Prejean – Mel defended Shanna Moakler in the lawsuit brought by former Miss California Carrie Prejean against the Miss California and Miss USA beauty pageants and their officials (including President Donald J. Trump).  Ms. Prejean alleged “religious discrimination” and various other claims arising from the controversy she created with her answer during the Miss USA pageant that indicated her opposition to “gay marriage.”  

Cathy Schulman, et al. v. Bob Yari, et al. – Mel represented Academy Award winning producer Cathy Schulman and her producing partner, Tom Nunan, in their disputes with Bob Yari and his companies arising from their production company partnership in Bull’s Eye Entertainment over their share of their profits from various projects, including the  motion picture, Crash, for which Ms. Schulman won the Academy Award for 2005 Best Picture in the producing category.  During the course of that case, Mel obtained a preliminary injunction to prevent Mr. Yari and his companies from removing the on screen and advertising credits for Ms. Schulman (as Producer) and for Mr. Nunan (as Executive Producer) on the motion picture, The Illusionist.

Kevin’s Music LLC v. Mahee, et al. – Mel represented Kevin Costner’s music company in connection with its breach of contract claims against an individual and his company who promised to promote KML and develop a commercial website for Mr. Costner’s music activities.  

Morgan Creek Productions (In Re Franchise Pictures Bankruptcy Proceedings) – Mel represented Morgan Creek Productions in connection with a dispute over the assets MCP obtained during the course of the bankruptcy proceedings of Franchise Pictures LLC, successfully resisting efforts to “reform” the asset purchase agreement which would have effectively excluded motion picture development projects from the assets MCP purchased.

Evolution Entertainment adv. Cary Elwes – Mel represented the producers of the motion picture franchise, Saw, in a lawsuit brought by actor Cary Elwes. 

Harris adv. Paradigm – Mel represented the executrix and the estate of Jeff Harris, a television writer, in defense of claims by his former talent agency for breach of contract.  

SEG v. Stillman – Mel represented CBS, television producer Mark Burnett and the production company for the reality television series, Survivor, in claims made by a former “Castaway” that the outcome of the program was “rigged.”  

Laurence Fishburne v. Cinergi Productions – Mel represented Laurence Fishburne in his action against the production company which produced the motion picture, Die Hard With A Vengeance.  

Viacom & MTV Networks adv. Gess – Mel represented Viacom and its division, MTV Networks, in a lawsuit filed by a woman in Phoenix, Arizona arising from a VH-1 news special involving the Girls Gone Wild phenomenon on college campuses.  

MTV Networks adv. Burns – Mel represented Viacom and its division, MTV Networks, in a lawsuit by an actress over what she believed to be an offensive editing of her role in a comedy sketch.  The actress claimed that the digital pixilation of her upper body in the skit gives a false (and defamatory) impression that she is an actress willing to appear nude or semi-nude in a simulated sex scene.  Mel led the successful appeal which reversed the trial court’s denial of a special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute.

Sid Sapsowitz v. John Kluge, et al. – Mel represented at trial an individual in his claims against John Kluge, Stuart Subotnick and their company, Metromedia International Group, Inc., over the sale of Orion Pictures and other assets to MGM.  The trial resulted in multi-million dollar jury verdicts against all defendants, including verdicts against the individual defendants, as well as the predicate findings of “malice, oppression and fraud” required for the award of punitive damages.  The case settled for an amount exceeding the verdicts on the eve of the punitive damages phase of trial.  

CBS, 20th Century Fox Film Corp., et al. adv. Robert Conrad – Mel defended CBS and Fox in an action filed by actor Robert Conrad alleging right of publicity and breach of contract claims arising from the use of his likeness on video and DVD for the 1960s television series, Wild, Wild West, obtaining a dismissal of those claims in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on the grounds of preemption by the Copyright Act and the Labor Management Relations Act.

International Family Entertainment, MTM Enterprises, Ice Capades, Inc. et al. adv. Beachport Entertainment Corp., et al. – Mel defended International Family Entertainment, MTM Enterprises, Ice Capades, Inc. and related individuals against breach of contract, rescission and fraud claims of a producer hired to produce certain Ice Capades shows.  The plaintiff filed his action in Los Angeles Superior Court, in contravention of a mandatory forum selection clause requiring any disputes to be litigated in Virginia.  When the Superior Court refused to stay or dismiss the action, Mel obtained an emergency stay and successfully petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate, directing the Superior Court to stay or dismiss the action.  

Larry Holmes adv. Schlessinger, et al. – Mel defended former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in a trial in the United States District Court for the Central District of California over breach of contract claims brought by boxing promoters.  The case resulted in a directed verdict in favor of Mr. Holmes.

 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Northridge Foods International, Inc. adv. Barrio Fiesta, LLC - Mel represents the United States distributor of "Barrio Fiesta" brand food products on trademark infringement claims.

Landmark Event Staffing Services adv. Contemporary Services Corporation – Mel represented an event staffing and security company in a trade secrets/unlawful competition case filed by CSC, the largest company in the industry. Mel obtained summary judgement on behalf of his clients on all of CSC's claims. 

Bennett Productions, Inc. adv. Victoria Vogel – Mel represented the production company behind the high definition television program, Bikini Destinations, as well as its principals against a model who claimed an interest in the profits of the show. 

Actuate Corporation adv. AIG Retirement Services  – Mel represented software company, Actuate Corporation, in a dispute concerning the terms of its license agreement with a customer.  

Manny Pacquiao – Mel represented 7-time world boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao, in connection with various matters concerning his trademarks and rights of publicity.

CBS adv. Estate of Leonard Freeman – Mel represented CBS in an arbitration against the estate of the creator of the television series, Hawaii Five-O.  The issues in that case centered on the “separated rights” and other issues under the collective bargaining agreement with the Writers Guild of America.  The arbitration confirmed CBS’ right to exploit the rights to Hawaii Five-O in television – leading to the Hawaii Five-O series which debuted in Fall 2010.

CBS & Warner Bros. adv. Ralston – Mel represented CBS and Warner Bros. in a “separated rights” federal court action over the CBS television series, Wild, Wild West.  Mel obtained summary judgment based upon federal preemption under the Labor Relations Management Act and the Copyright Act.

CBS/CSI trademarks – Mel represented CBS and its distributors in confidential pre-litigation discussions over an alleged infringement of trademarks used in the hit television series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, obtaining a favorable settlement prior to litigation.   

CBS & Endemol Productions adv. Rosenblum – Mel defended CBS and Endemol Productions in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois over the alleged infringement of the mark “Big Brother” in the reality television program, Big Brother.   

Showscan Entertainment adv. IMAX – Mel represented a large format film and entertainment company in multiple lawsuits in California and New York federal courts initiated by IMAX over the manufacture, sale and use of large format film projectors – cases which included issues over alleged misappropriation of trade secrets, trademark infringement and various other business torts.  Mel implemented a defense strategy to have the “IMAX” mark deemed as “generic” in the first case scheduled to go to trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, prompting a global confidential settlement.

King World Direct adv. Marty Stouffer Productions – Mel defended King World Direct (a CBS affiliate) in a federal court action alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract arising from its distribution of wildlife television programming. 

SDP Productions v. PAX – Mel represented a company affiliated with Vin DiBona, creator of America’s Funniest Home Videos, for the collection of license fees and for copyright infringement over the cable television program, Chicken Soup for the Soul. 

MEDIA & FIRST AMENDMENT

Asian Journal Publications v. Balita Media – Mel represented a Filipino-American newspaper and its principals against a competitor publication, successfully moving to strike cross-claims against the newspaper's principals under the California anti-SLAPP statute based upon their assertion of First Amendment rights of petition.  

Dahn Yoga – Mel represented the affiliates of a South Korean organization devoted to the practice of "dahn-hak" yoga, and which operated various yoga centers throughout the United States, with respect to issues arising from media publications in print and television.

Isuzu Motors Ltd. v. Consumers Union of U.S. – Mel represented Isuzu Motors Limited in its federal court action against Consumers Union of United States, the publisher of Consumer Reports, over its 1996 story about the Isuzu Trooper, becoming one of the few litigants to defeat CU on a motion for summary judgment (Isuzu Motors Ltd. v. Consumers Union of US, 66 F. Supp. 2d 1117 (C.D. Cal. 1999)).  The trial resulted in jury findings of falsity as to some of CU’s statements about the Trooper as well as one finding of actual malice.  

American Dental Ass’n v. Khorrami – Mel represented the American Dental Association in its federal court action against a lawyer, Shawn Khorrami, for statements he made accusing the ADA of placing its own financial interests before those of dental patients on the issue of amalgam dental fillings.  Mel defeated the defendant’s special motion to strike under the California anti-SLAPP statute – one of the first decisions arising from recent amendments to that statute.  

Starzlife adv. Black – Mel represented the paparazzi website Starzlife in a federal court lawsuit brought by Dustin Lance Black alleging, among other things, copyright infringement.  

People v. Avila – Mel appeared for CNN in its efforts to permit cameras in courtroom proceedings in the state court murder prosecution of Alejandro Avila for the rape and murder of Samantha Runnion.

 

EMPLOYMENT 

Seafood City Supermarkets – Mel was outside general counsel to the largest Filipino supermarket chain in the United States, and was responsible for a wide range of matters and issues for those companies including employment-related issues.

Perez v. Fortune Enterprise Holdings, et al. – Mel represented a group of hourly employees of the largest Filipino supermarket chain in the United States, Seafood City, as independent counsel to protect their rights of privacy in a wage and hour class action on appeal from a trial court's discovery order requiring disclosure of contact information without allowing the employees an opportunity to object.

Penniall v. Strelitz – Mel represented the managing partner of a baseball management agency, West Coast Sports Management, against a former partner who left the agency, and took certain clients, for a larger agency.    

Tannenbaum v. Ovitz – Mel represented television production executive, Eric Tannenbaum, in his suit against Michael Ovitz and his companies over Mr. Tannenbaum’s employment in Mr. Ovitz’s consolidated management, motion picture production and television production organization.  

Les Haber v. PolyGram Filmed Entertainment – Mel represented a senior marketing executive of a motion picture production company on his claims of age discrimination after he was terminated and replaced by a younger executive.  

Vin DiBona adv. Brustein – Mel defended Vin DiBona (creator of the venerable television series, America’s Funniest Home Videos) and his companies against the claims of his former president, Richard Brustein.   

 

COMPLEX BUSINESS LITIGATION

Island Pacific Markets - Mel serves as outside general counsel to Island Pacific Markets, one of the largest Fillipino grocery market chains in the United States, and is responsible for a wide range of legal services for those companies, including the majority of their business litigations.


AT&T adv. Heichman – Mel defended AT&T in a class action over the collection of local taxes on calling card calls which plaintiff alleged had no “nexus” to the taxing jurisdiction.  Mel successfully defeated the motion to certify the class and obtained judgment on the pleadings before resolving the remaining issues before trial.

Mobil Oil Torrance Refinery Litigation – Mel represented Mobil Oil Corporation in various lawsuits arising from the operations of its Torrance Refinery.  

Applied Digital Solutions, Inc. adv. Hark Vasa – Mel represented a public company, Applied Digital Solutions, in claims asserted by a former executive of a subsidiary who sold that subsidiary to Applied Digital Solutions.  

Pacific Decision Sciences Corporation, et al. adv. Maudlin – Mel defended a publicly traded company, Applied Digital Solutions, and its subsidiary, Pacific Decision Sciences Corp., against claims by a former employee on a purported employment trust.  Mel successfully limited the plaintiff’s attempt to broaden the scope of the right to attach and turnover orders to assets of the parent corporation and assets outside California through a successful petition for writ of mandate.  (See Pacific Decision Sciences Corp. v. Superior Court, 121 Cal. App. 4th 1100, 18 Cal. Rptr. 3d 104 (2004)).  Mel then successfully tried the case to a defense judgment in Orange County Superior Court.  

Pacific Decision Sciences Corporation v. Tahim – Mel represented Applied Digital Solutions and Pacific Decision Sciences Corporation in their lawsuit against their former accountant for breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence arising from her relationship and close ties to the former executive of the subsidiary, Hark Vasa. 

James Hennefer, et al. v. Butcher, et al. – Mel tried the malicious prosecution claims of real estate entrepreneurs against a developer and his lawyers who used multiple lawsuits to prevent the sale of property.  (See, e.g., Hennefer v. Butcher, 182 Cal. App. 3d 492, 227 Cal. Rptr. 318 (1986); Butcher v. Milner, 9 Cal. Rptr. 2d 206 (1992) (opinion ordered depublished); Butcher v. Milner, 930 F.2d 26, 1991 WL 45257 (9th Cir. 1990) (unpublished opinion)).  Mel secured what he believed to be the then-largest jury verdict for malicious prosecution claims in California – $33.6 million in actual and punitive damages – against the developer and one of his lawyers, and settled the claims prior to trial against a prominent real estate attorney.

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